Marketers continue to pursue the fastest growing minority group in America but are still puzzled by its many faces.
The 2000 Census revealed Hispanics’ growing dominance in the population, but it’s taken a little while for marketers to see past traditional stereotypes, says Find/SVP analyst Keith Kirkpatrick. “The idea that Hispanics don’t have any money or interest in mainstream products is going by the wayside,” and companies that have reached saturation in their traditional markets are eager to reach a group estimated to have $638 billion in spending power by 2010.
But how to reach them? And who are they? Hispanic households often consist of multiple layers: seniors and recent emigres who speak only Spanish, assimilated 30-somethings who still have a strong sense of ethnic identity and cultural pride, and Spanglish speaking teens and ‘tweens. “It’s a question of understanding what cultural forces are at work,” says Kirkpatrick. These forces include differences in Latin cultures, shopping habits (Hispanics like to shop with family members and are early adopters of technologies) and values. Serious research will be rewarded, because there is a delicate line, Kirkpatrick notes, between accommodation and insult—“Don’t just put salsa music behind every pitch.” Close attention to Hispanic entertainment trends and its powerful media is also key.
Don’t make assumptions. “There are land mines everywhere, and you don’t want to appear to be pandering,” warns Kirkpatrick. “But you don’t want to go the other way, either, creating a blanket campaign that doesn’t take into account the rich heritage of these people.”